RSU 56 Superintendent Pam Doyen Submitted photo

DIXFIELD — The superintendent and directors of Regional School Unit 56 agreed Tuesday night to keep the public informed about the level of COVID-19 transmission in Oxford County but not vote at every meeting on whether to require face masks for all students and staff.

The district’s mask mandate took effect Sept. 15 after the number of infected students began to increase since classes resumed Sept. 1 and masks were optional.

At their meeting Sept. 28, the board voted to continue the masking mandate for all students and staff when the level of virus transmission in the county is high, based on state data.

Superintendent Pam Doyen told directors Tuesday that the district will continue requiring masks for all students when Oxford County has a substantial or high level of coronavirus transmission. The practice follows the recommendations of administrators, the district committee studying COVID-19 best practices and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she said.

The district includes Canton, Carthage, Dixfield and Peru.

RSU 56’s contracted doctor, Stephanie Sinclair, told directors she recommends requiring masks in the district’s three schools: Dirigo Elementary School in Peru, TW Kelley Dirigo Middle School and Dirigo High School, both in Dixfield.

“As most of you are aware,” Sinclair said, “the community transmission in Oxford County has really spiked in the last couple of weeks, which means that the new recommendation for the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is that if you’re indoors and if you’re in an area of high transmission, which Oxford County is, that they recommend masks for everyone indoors, regardless of vaccination status.”

Doyen showed directors data on COVID-19 cases in the district since the start of school and the effect of wearing masks:

• Sept. 1-14, when masks were optional, 19 students tested positive; 170 students were close contacts of those with the virus; 189 students were out of school; and six staff tested positive.

• Sept. 15-28, when masks were required, three students tested positive; 18 students were close contacts of those three; 21 students were out of school because of close contacts; and one staff member tested positive.

• Sept. 29 to Oct. 12, when masks were required, no students tested positive; 11 students were out of school because they were close contacts of community members who tested positive; and one staff member tested positive.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Brandy and Dan Bordeau said via Zoom conferencing they want to choose whether their child wears a mask to school.

Director Angela Cushman of Peru suggested directors not vote on the masking issue at each meeting.

Directors and Doyen agreed.

Director Bruce Ross of Dixfield said there should be a follow-up at meetings to keep the public informed of the COVID-19 situation and the level of community transmission.

“We just want to keep the public informed as much as possible that we’re doing this to keep our kids in school,” he said.

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